Boating enthusiasts who want to build their own vessels have several options to choose from, ranging from simple plywood sheet boats to more complex and expensive kit boats. While not all of these boats are seaworthy and may only be appropriate for use in small, protected bodies of water, they can provide a fun DIY project for anyone interested in building their own boat.
Boat building can be a fun and rewarding DIY project, and while not everyone can create a modern watercraft in their backyard, there are still plenty of options for building a boat from scratch. Small, simple crafts like row boats, canoes, and sailboats can be enjoyable DIY projects that enhance personal experiences on the water. In this article, we will explore several popular DIY boat-building options, including plywood sheet boats and kit boats.
Plywood Sheet Boats
One of the simplest and least expensive methods of building a boat that you can use repeatedly in small, protected bodies of water is to construct a box out of plywood sheets with a section angled up for the bow. Although it may not be comfortable in any sort of waves, it is a quick and easy project that can be tackled with a budget of just a couple of hundred dollars, resulting in a mini-boat that will last.
The process is straightforward and requires sketching out the dimensions you want, cutting plywood sheets for the bottom, sides, transom, and bow cutting trim (such as 1”-by-2” wood strips) to line all the joints, securing the sides and bottom by driving screws through them and into the trim, sealing all the joints with an adhesive/sealant, and giving the boat a coat of paint to protect the plywood and extend its lifespan.
If you want to build a plywood sheet boat, it’s a good idea to look at some basic plans first (plenty are available on this website for free). However, it is important to remember that this sort of craft isn’t meant for use on open water, nor without life jackets being worn at all times. When you go for your first sea trial, you’ll likely find it rather unstable and difficult to row in a straight line. But you’ll be rowing your very own boat, that you built with your own two hands.
Building a kit boat can result in a much more seaworthy craft than most of these other DIY backyard projects. However, it also costs quite a bit more money. In most cases, you’ll be paying for the plans, pre-cut materials, and shipping. Accessories like oars or sails generally will need to be purchased after the project is complete. Depending on the size and type of kit boat you build, your budget can range from a couple of thousand dollars to $10,000 or even more.
Different kit boat companies offer different building styles, ranging from strip planking over frames to stitch-and-glue construction (where the sheets of wood are connected by sewing wire through pre-drilled holes). In some cases, the wood framework of the boat will need to be encapsulated in epoxy resin and/or fiberglass once it’s assembled. Some kits have interlocking pieces and parts that snap together like puzzle parts, while others will need to be glued together or mechanically fastened.
Each of these different methods requires different levels of skill, time, and expense. Therefore, before buying a kit boat, it is essential to thoroughly research just what’s involved with the construction method that’s to be used. That said, the time and expense involved with building a kit boat are worth it to many people because the end result can be a rather substantial, long-lasting watercraft.
What type of boat should I build as a first-time builder?
Dinghies are small, sometimes inflatable, boats that are often used as a tender to larger boats, allowing people to travel back and forth from shore to the larger boat. Dinghies can be used for a variety of purposes, including fishing, waterskiing, and exploring. They are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, from small, lightweight boats that can be carried on the roof of a car to larger boats that can be towed behind a vehicle. Some dinghies are inflatable, while others are made from more traditional materials like wood, aluminum, or fiberglass.
Skiffs are small boats that are typically flat-bottomed and designed for use in shallow water. They are often used for fishing or as a tender to a larger boat. Skiffs are available in a variety of sizes and styles, from small, simple boats that can be rowed or powered by an outboard motor to larger, more complex boats that can be used for offshore fishing or as recreational vessels.
Jon boats are small, flat-bottomed boats that are designed for use in calm, shallow water. They are often used for fishing or hunting and are typically powered by an outboard motor. Jon boats are available in a variety of sizes and styles, from small, lightweight boats that can be carried on the roof of a car to larger, more complex boats that can be used for offshore fishing or as recreational vessels.
Sailboats: If you’re looking for a boat that can harness the power of the wind, a sailboat might be right for you. Plywood sailboats are often designed for racing, but they can also be used for leisurely cruising. With the right design and construction, a plywood sailboat can be both lightweight and sturdy, making it ideal for both beginners and experienced sailors.
Rowboats are classic boats that are perfect for leisurely paddling or fishing. They’re typically longer and narrower than other boats, making them ideal for calm waters. Plywood rowboats can be built in a variety of styles, from traditional wooden boats to modern designs.
Canoes and Kayaks:
Canoes and kayaks are popular boats for exploring rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. They’re lightweight and easy to maneuver, making them ideal for solo paddling or for a small group. Plywood canoes and kayaks can be built in a variety of styles, from traditional wood-and-canvas designs to more modern designs with sleek lines.
If you’re looking for a more permanent option for living on the water, building a houseboat might be right for you. Plywood houseboats can be designed for a variety of uses, from a weekend getaway to a permanent residence. They’re typically larger and more complex to build than other plywood boats, but with the right plans and construction, they can be a comfortable and affordable option for living on the water.